Today is the first Sunday of Great Lent, referred to as the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The Gospel for this Sunday is from St. John chapter 1 verses 43-51 in which Nathaniel upon recognizing who Jesus was answered, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel” (John 1:49).
It was once said by a Coptic monk, “that my doctor is Jesus Christ, my food is Jesus Christ, and my fuel is Jesus Christ”. St. John of Kronstadt, a great spiritual Saint of the 19th/20th century said, “the Lord is everything to me. He is the strength of my heart and the light of my mind. He inclines my heart to everything good. He strengthens it; He also gives me good thoughts; He is my rest and my joy; He is my faith, hope and love; He is my food and drink, my raiment, my dwelling place”.
All aspects of the Church, the icons, hymns, prayers, worship and Liturgy focus our attention on Jesus Christ. The most important reason for being a Christian is to bring honor to Jesus Christ – to glorify Christ in all that we are and do. This First Sunday of Great Lent is an impressive reminder of the centrality of Christ in the Church. It is a spiritual feast during which we Orthodox Christians reaffirm our confession of faith in Christ and His saving work. It is the celebration of when we lift up Christ in praise and glorification.
Historically this day is referred to as the Triumph of Orthodoxy and marks a historical event in the life of the Church, the restoration of Holy Icons to the Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople in 878 AD after a period of 100 years of iconoclast and division. In the words of St. John of Damascus, who wrote in defense of icons, “the icon is a song of triumph, and a revelation, and an enduring witness to the victory of Saints”. The icon reminds us of how real our salvation is, and they remind us that we belong to one family of God. God unites us all in Christ by the grace of the Holy Spirit!
They also teach us about Christ and His ministry as well as about the saints and their record of faith. As sacred art, icons are indeed windows to heaven, for they seek to symbolize the transfigured cosmos and the victory of redeemed creation by the glory of Christ, Jesus.
Let us conclude this meditation with the words of the Great Prokimenon, “Who is so great a God as our God, thou art the God who does wonders”.